Irmak Ersöz | Summer Internship - Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations (New York)

During the 2022 Summer, I worked with diplomats and legal advisors on various subjects related to the global politics as well as Turkish foreign affairs. As an intern, I attended various U.N. meetings, conducted research on international law governing humanitarian aid, and got the chance to observe and interact with the many dimensions of multilateral diplomacy.

The majority of my work focused on following and reporting on the U.N. meetings through short summaries and translations from French and English. Observing the General Assembly, the Security Council, and other UN organs at work, I quickly noticed that bilateral and multilateral country relationships varied in different policy settings: there were many Groups of Friends” that would push agendas and resolutions at the UN. These groups felt much more influential and action-taking than the General Assembly itself, and the General Assembly debates mostly focus on country statements. Within this context, I was also able to observe consultations between core country groups and other representatives on issues spanning from human right to environment. What I noticed was that the consultations would focus on very minor details, such as commas and small words, which didn’t make much sense to me at first. However, talking with the Turkish Mission diplomats, I quickly realized that these minor details were very significant from an international law perspective, defining how countries can interpret resolutions and decisions.

Aside from these meetings, I observed the Security Council at work, mostly focused on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), and the Middle East. The power dynamics within the Council felt archaic and unbalanced, where ex colonizers would make critical decisions for countries such as DRC and CAR within their own territories. At the same time, one veto could block critical humanitarian aid from reaching those in Syria. I worked intensely on the issue of cross-border aid into Syria, because the aid passages authorized by the Syrian government are on the Turkish-Syrian border. There used to be four such passages, but there is only one today after China and Russia vetoed them out of their concerns about Syria’s sovereignty in case of humanitarian aid unauthorized by Syria itself. I was tasked by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Turkey to research previous U.N. resolutions, International Court of Justice (IJC) judgments on Nicaragua and the Barcelona Traction. I read multilateral treaties and judicial advisory documents and worked with experts to understand the legal dimension of consent and sovereignty in relation to cross-border humanitarian aid. This exposed me to diplomatic and political language, as well as legal terms and knowledge, to understand large political concepts and reinterpret them with legal guidance.

The internship also sparked my interest in international and humanitarian law; I realized that even my limited amount of exposure to international law through taking classes at Stanford gave me a competitive advantage in the field. I think any kind of humanitarian or political position requires exceptional critical thinking, an understanding of legal language, and the historical context of the international legal system to be able to stand on solid ground.

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